LOGAN, Utah (ABC4) — Students from the Utah State University College of Science have joined forces with NASA to study atmospheric gravity waves produced by weather events on Earth.

NASA recently announced that the project, led by the USU Space Dynamics Laboratory, will launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station to the International Space Station (ISS) in December 2023.

This project is a huge milestone for USU as it’s the first time the University has been a total mission provider for a major NASA program — contributing as the principal investigator, manufacturing the instrument, and leading on-orbit and mission operations management.

The launch will involve an instrument called the Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE), designed by USU to peer into Earth’s upper atmosphere from an orbit of about 400 kilometers above to provide groundbreaking images of Earth’s gravity waves and space weather.

These gravity waves and space weather can adversely affect satellites that provide global services including communications, banking, navigation, and entertainment, as well as information for human spaceflight missions.

Any insight gained from AWE will help scientists at USU to accurately forecast their effects on satellite communications, which will then help mission planners and satellite operators plan contingencies.

SDL Engineer and Scientist Brian Thompson, Engineering Associate Dave Griffin, and Mission Assurance Manager Russ Kirkham are pictured mounting the AWE Opto-Mechanical Assembly (OMA) to the flight EXPRESS Payload Adapter (ExPA) at SDL facilities on Utah State University’s Innovation Campus.

“Following a rigorous calibration and test campaign to ensure that the science instrument is flight-ready, SDL is making preparations for AWE’s safe storage until it is shipped to Cape Canaveral,” said Burt Lamborn, SDL’s AWE project manager. “SDL is looking forward to the December launch of AWE, but our work will not be finished. We are honored to work with NASA’s Heliophysics team and [principal investigator] Dr. Taylor as SDL leads mission operations once the instrument is launched and integrated onto the ISS.”

Utah State University has been involved in space research for almost seven decades, which also makes it a NASA Space Grant university.

The Space Dynamics Laboratory is headquartered on USU’s Innovation Campus in Logan, Utah.